This week American Airlines President Robert Isom spoke at the Cowen and Company Global Transportation Conference. I covered some of his remarks including the amount of additional award travel passengers are taking on their aircraft this year, bringing their average closer to what Delta and United offer.
Isom also spoke about their future at Washington National airport. While American has strategically grown at Los Angeles and Philadelphia (the latter trading off with shrinking at New York JFK), their focus going forward is largely on growth at their most profitable hubs. They have new gates that will be coming online at Dallas Fort-Worth and Charlotte over the next couple of years.
However Isom noted that Washington National is actually their third most profitable hub with a 13.1% operating margin. It’s the first time American has publicly grouped National airport alongside DFW (which is first) and Charlotte (which is second) in this way.
As part of ‘Project Journey’ the airport authority is building a new concourse that will replace the current hated gate 35X. Isom offered,
Today we have 14 gates that are restricted to 50-seat regional jets, when we get to the new regional terminal opening out into 2021, that will allow those 14 gates to handle up to 76 seaters
In fact these are not 14 ‘gates’ today these are 14 “remote aircraft parking positions served by buses from gate 35X” and they are not actually restricted to 50 seat aircraft.
However it does make sense to grow capacity – using larger regional jets – at National airport since they cannot legally add any flights and the flights they have are profitable.
American’s Shuttle Bus to Gate 35X at Washington National Airport
Marginal seats on certain routes should attract more passengers, and larger planes overall (together with the elimination of gate 35X) should make travelers stop hating regional jet travel on American Airlines from this airport so much.